To Unsafe Places

The well

Sometimes we are taken out of our comfort zone,

It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water.

John4:7

Collecting water at midday would leave one exhausted and perspiring. Later we hear she has had a string of failed relationships. Maybe she was avoiding those who despised her.

Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.

John 4:6

The one avoiding relationship met Jesus who, being exhausted, had not gone into town. Maybe he was avoiding company?

Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”

John 4:7

They came together through need. Jesus was thirsty. There followed a conversation ending,

 “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 4:25-26

One of the clearest statements Jesus made about his identity.

the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Messiah?”  

John 4:28-29

The woman is willing to go to people who despise her with a message that would sound unbelievable. Who would accept it? Though despised, the love instilled by Jesus is greater.

Many of the Samaritans from that town  believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

John 439

Her risk bore fruit. Am I ready to let Jesus lead me to people I don’t want to relate to?

Observer Mindset

Having the mindset of an observer will lead me to fail when I am asked to step up and participate.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:57-58

Peter went to see the outcome. He was an observer with no expectation of participation, but then someone asked him about his loyalties and he could not switch roles.

I too fall into this trap of trying to hide and resist being drawn in. I want to preserve my place as an observer. Yet my attempt to hide can leave me appearing to approve or betray.

Jesus’ silence at his trial makes him look like an observer. However, at key moments he intervened. It becomes clear that he is using the opportunity to clarify the real issue for those who considered themselves to be the judges, but were themselves on trial.

Mindset when tested

When Peter went to his trial, he was taken unawares.

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, …. Peter followed him at a distance, … He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Matthew 26:57-58

Peter went “to see the outcome”, to observe, not participate. When I adopt an observer mindset, I resist being drawn in. Then a test comes seemingly out of nowhere. I fail to take responsibility and am taken unawares into a betrayal.

… a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Matthew 26:69-70

Jesus went into his trial ready to be a responsible participant, though for the most part he was silent.

“This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” … But Jesus remained silent.

Matthew 26:61-63

He would not be drawn into frivolous arguments. But at the right moment he intervened.

The high priest said to him, “…  Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” … Jesus replied “… From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:63-64

The leaders thought they were trying Jesus. They were taken unawares when he presented just the right words to test their hearts.

How do we adopt a mindset that is ready to be tested?

What comes out of us?

Whatever we value, we set our eyes on and store up. Whatever it is takes our heart and becomes our master. So Jesus said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Matthew 6:19

When we choose to treasure things apart from Jesus, we fill any space in our hearts where we could treasure the Lord. Jesus builds on this idea-

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other …

Matthew 6:24

This brings me to the bit I find most curious.

The eye is the lamp of the body.

Matthew 6:22

What I choose to keep my eye out for is what I fill my heart with. If I choose to fill my heart with the God of Love, then the love of God will flow from me. That which I fill my heart with, I become. So,

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Matthew 12:35

Most things that people set their eyes on are neither good nor bad. However, when we ‘set our eyes’ on them, we make them our idol and our desire for them becomes selfish. This is a desire apart from the love of God and ultimately leads to our storing evil in our hearts and this evil will come out!

What makes a Christian?

What is the difference between a Christian and someone who has yet to receive Jesus? The difference can be seen through what empowers their life: ‘Life’ or ‘death’. Our lives are an arena where these two sources compete to rule and bear fruit in our lives.

… when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions … were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.

Romans 7:5

Those who have yet to receive the ‘life’ of Jesus are in the realm of the flesh. The tragedy is to see people doing their best, yet however well intentioned, they succumb to their passions, fail to love unconditionally and bare fruit for ‘death’. Likewise, we who have the life of Christ stumble when we choose to feed our passions and bear that same fruit.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:4

We escape the power of ‘death’ through identifying with Jesus’ death on the cross; by renouncing allegiance to our sinful passions and receiving his ‘life’ as we identify with his resurrection. Having received his ‘life’ we belong to Jesus and can bear his fruit of love. Fruit must have a source, and only the power of Jesus who is love, can be the source of his fruit.

Brothers who hurt us

How do we relate with those who have hurt us? Most focus on the person and the offence. What happens when we bring in Jesus’ perspective.

Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, whose slave had run away to Paul and through Paul had come to faith. He sends the slave back with an appeal to Philemon for mercy. I have adjusted the letter to make it from Jesus to you, the hurt one, on behalf of the one who has caused you grief. Try reading it, inserting your own name, and the name of the one who caused grief –

To (Your name here),

Grace and peace to you.

I am always thankful when I remember you … accordingly, even though I could command you, for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you. I appeal to you for my child (The name of one causing grief), whose father I have become. I am sending him to you, sending my very heart.  … I prefer to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

So, if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Jesus, write this with my own hand: I will repay it – to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, dear one, I want some benefit from you! Refresh my heart through my power.       

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Jesus

Philemon

Easter Love

Years ago I realised that in a perfect world we would never have been able to grasp, 

“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Ephesians 3:18

Love is seen in the personal cost it is willing to pay to help someone in need. If our whole lives, and the lives of those around us were a paradise of bliss, how could love be demonstrated?

Then I came to-

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial  because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life  that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Without trials through which we have the opportunity to persevere, we could not know how wide and long and high and deep is our love for him. We can profess love for Jesus, but until it is proven by sacrificial love for his people here around us, the words are not proven.

Our love has limits and most days life’s circumstances demonstrate them. On the cross Jesus demonstrated that his love has none!

Love revealed

What does this mean …

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.


2 Corinthians 4:10-11

Reading Isaiah 53 brings helpful context.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him … he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus’ love caused offence to the religiously self-righteous. Our self-righteous secular culture takes offence at any who live out faith ahead of its values. Protection is valued so highly that love is viewed suspiciously; choice is idolised, elevating selfishness. Jesus’ way is despised.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.


Isaiah 53:4-5

The way of Jesus may be despised, but his love must be expressed. For many of his people it is expressed by dealing with the emotional fall out of these cultural values. As we carry these infirmities, we are indeed carrying around in our body the death of Jesus. His love is revealed in a myriad of acts of kindness.

What do I trust in?

When things are going wrong, we go to our source of strength –

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?

[Psalm 121:1]

Everyone has their mountains from which they expect help. For some it is money, for others, alliances with powerful people, for others it is in their personality.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

[Psalm 121:2]

It takes faith to let go of these mountains and depend on our creator. When we are desperate we are tempted towards proven solutions. We have to learn to take God at his word when he says –

He will not let you stumble;

[Psalm 121:3]

Though he might leave us in trouble for longer than we are comfortable, if we hold on to him, he will come through.

the one who watches over you will not slumber.

[Psalm 121:4]

When we have been hard pressed for a time, we are tempted to think God has taken his eye off our situation. How can he care if he sees without acting?

The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade … The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.

[Psalm 121:5-7]

Jesus promised, “I am with you always.” What an encouragement. If we could see the harm he keeps from us, we would be amazed. As it is, we trust him. This is faith. Only as our faith is stretched do we gain resilience to stop depending on our mountains.

Power and Understanding

What would you do with all power and understanding?

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; …

Psalm 147:5

The extent of God’s power is seen through the creation of all things. We see the breadth of it in the galaxies, we see the depth in the sub-atomic particles.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Psalm 147:4

When God names, he does so with understanding and care. The name is not merely a label. When he gives us a new name, it tells of whom he sees us to be. So, he names the billions of stars with care, describing each one’s specialness.

his understanding has no limit.

Psalm 147:5

Creation also shows his understanding. Knowing all things, he can predict and control events. Our culture is concerned about things on the edge of its understanding such as global warming, political turmoil and the like. The Lord who understands the impact of every CO2 particle and every political decision is not concerned. He could bring everything into balance, if we would humble ourselves to ask.

The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Psalm 147:6

Many use power or understanding to engineer or force their will. This however, is wickedness. God’s use of power elevates humility. So, Jesus, having all power, chose humility when he allowed himself to be executed. Only when it was too late did the wicked discover what he had understood, that he was conquering the power of death!